Poetry, is fast gaining roots in Ghana, and as such, there are modern poets who are helping give it a boost in the entertainment industry. I must commend the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) for helping its members gain the recognition they need. Being what many call a prolific writer, I started writing poetry when I was very young. It was my safe shell, it was my happy lane, it was my channel of criticism, it was my path to call for fairness, it was my route of education, among other things.
I never for once thought I would reach a point where I would be a published poetess, but by the grace of God, 15th March 2015 will see me living to see a dream, which I deemed far fetched, come true. Thanks to my loved ones who have had continued faith in me and have supported me up to this point and thanks to my followers on social media, especially, Facebook, WordPress and Twitter, whose words of encouragement, great voices of constructive criticisms and love have brought me this far.
My anthology: Poetry Excursion on an African Mind, which is my maiden book, was borne out of many emotions, so whoever one is, whatever one is going through, you are sure to find a piece which suits you. From children to the mourning adult, from the love-sick to the loved and from workers to politicians.
What drives me is the fact that I wish to contribute to the society where I am by doing what I do best, writing. Being one who knows what parents of autistic children go through, I decided, by consulting the executives of GAW, who gave their full support, to use 30% of the proceeds of the book to set up a fund to support children with autism to help relieve needy parents who have huge tasks of taking care of such children. Autism needs money to train children to fit into the society, money which most abandoned mothers lack and so fall into desperation. There are many people who are providing help for autistic children in Ghana today at huge costs, but no financial help comes in except from philanthropists.
It is my hope that this fund, whose signatories would be the President of GAW, my humble self and a head of an autistic organisation, would grow to a point of relieving many parents whose hearts are heavy because of the fears they harbour and whose fears are fuelled mostly by the cost of living of their autistic children.
So I am entreating all and sundry to rally massively behind me on the 15th of March by being at the PAWA House, opposite the Accra Girls Senior High School at exactly 2:00pm to help support a good course. Seasoned poets like Nana Asaase, Oswald Okaitei, Chief Moomen would be there as Mr. Alfred Kpodo chairs this maiden edition. Special Guest of Honour will be the woman who has shown so much support for the Creative Arts in Ghana: Honourable Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; Honourable Abla Dzifa Gomashie.
Dawadawa and prekese
Are now ruled by curry powder
And white spices
Ghana men hide in masks
Thinking they are trending
And I ask myself why?
Days when our older generation lived
They lived on hwintia, pepreh and kakaduro
Adding mako, making sure akoko messa
Dance in soups with fowl carcasses in their rivers
Now many sicknesses abound in powder
Dressed in nice sachets, smiling in attraction to have us killed
And we succumb
No wonder hearts fail
Sighting many an ail
And bodies weaken
Always on healing seeking
We forget what we have thrown away
Culture and strength
Delicacies and safety
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia (c) 2015
Tingly tickles tell trophies,
Trials tails tops and turns
Try twinkling like a twinkling star
Or trip in trails while training
But trophies laughed and told tt
That they are the top many must reach
While tt is the fuel which drives seekers to them
What I learnt from the discourse?
Everything has its grand, medium, small and failures
Knowing ones’ place is the ticket to the top
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia (c) 2015
When the cats are mewing And the dogs are backing And many birds are chirping And many snakes are hissing Trying to get the lion’s attention, Trust me, all it hears are meats Yes, meats calling to be chewed
*** Instead of planning a trapping And getting a catching So they can get ears to do the listening, They converge to shout into hunger Some into sicknesses Some into trouble And others into death
*** It irks if foxes and hyenas lead Because in the stampede They get many smaller meats Who decide to dance to their beats Knowing not the hidden deceit; Same as the one causing the lion’s deceit Ahhh! Grandlings of plannings of sweet tannings!
This is a curse
I say this slowly
I know this is a curse
When tortoise flies like an eagle
Without any signs of possession
Without a cause
I know this is a curse
This is a curse
I know this is a curse
When dogs act like lions
Tearing bodies into pieces
While the sun smiles
And many eyes watch
I know this is a curse
This is a curse
I know this is a curse
A curse needing all hearts to revoke
Don’t we all know
Of the burning beared
Which burnt the hut of the family of partying teeth and tongues?
And oh, they roasted like ripe plantain
This is a curse
I know this is a curse
A curse whose first count hid behind a god
Shinning in filth
And perfuming in foul odour
Amazing how many sit and watch
Inventions on floors, tables and walls
Sighing, sympathising, shaking heads
This is a curse
I say this is a curse
A curse we must revoke or be extinct
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia
When he calls I keep rolling like a ball I keep moving like a sound I keep flowing like a river
*** When he sighs I keep over reacting like a mouse I keep worrying like a lost parrot Tears keep overflowing within me like a fountain
*** When he stumbles I keep diving like a light goalkeeper I keep hurting like a mother hurting over her young And I so want to be like a mattress for him to fall on
*** Why then do I matter so little? Why then does he push me into sharp rocks? Why then do my tears serve as his entertainment? He is like an onion being chopped An onion with no nutrients Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia
While Mihran “Mino” Kalaydjian is a mesmerizing live performer, his passionate cult following is surely due to his immense discography.
“Mihran Kalaydjian “Mino” known as “Fast Finger” is a special breed, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense of the phrase. He has it all – the whole package of artistic gifts – and in abundance. But, what strikes about his playing is the sheer beauty – the concept, the intelligence, the control over every sound, the vision, the phenomenal listening to it all – all the attributes that comprise great artistry of the sort that touches our souls.”
AMOAFOWAA:What is your earliest memory of playing the piano?
NINO: I grew up in a family of musicians. My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor in Jerusalem, Israel. My mother had a large influence on my musical development; she was the one who introduced me to music. Thanks to her, I was surrounded by music from the very beginning. Since childhood, I remember listening Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony”, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto, Chopin Etudes and many other beautiful music compositions. It was one little song that inspired me to start playing piano. I loved the song so much that I would sing it over and over. I was only Four years old, and of course I didn’t know how to read notes, so I tried to pick up the music by ear. When I sat down to play the song, it came easily. It was joy for me to be able to “perform” my favorite song and share it with my family and friends.
AMOAFOWAA: You are a serious professional, someone who engages with the score on such an intimate level that you’re actually looking at a facsimile of the composer’s handwriting. But I also know you have a big record collection. Do you listen to records of something like the Liszt sonata when working on it?
NINO: I try not to until I have a sufficient idea of the piece. I want to learn what the essence of it is and what I want to do with it first. Later on, I will occasionally listen to recordings, maybe just to find out what the performing tradition is with that particular work. But essentially, I don’t like to be influenced. The very first recording artists, and people who recorded these pieces for the first time, I don’t think they were imitating anybody. Who could they imitate? Maybe other performances they heard in halls or in private studios… Other performers are like me, too, trying to find their own solutions.
But I’ve actually known of at least two or three people who’ve said explicitly in interviews that they surround themselves with all existing performances to sort of try to get the best of them. To me, that’s completely backward, and shows a real lack of awareness and a lack of appreciation for the composer’s task and the composer’s creative act. It’s like “Oh, you wrote all of this, great, but I’m just going to do my own thing and ignore the finer points of what you wrote.” Some composers really agonize over small details, and I can understand how they feel.
AMOAFOWAA: What are your favorite piano concertos and why?
NINO: I have many that I love. Contrary to many pianists, I find the most difficult, and perhaps the most rewarding, to be Brahms 2. Many pianists find the Bartok 2 to be the sine qua non of difficult concerti, but I do think the Brahms is more so, if only because everybody knows it better and it’s more transparent in texture. I adore playing any and all of the Mozart concerti, and the Beethoven’s certainly have to be up there, too. It’s fun to play the Rach 3 from time to time I had my first successes in the United Kingdom with that piece but I can’t say it’s my favourite work.
AMOAFOWAA: Do you suffer from nerves before a performance and how do you handle this?
NINO: I don’t really suffer too often from nerves as such, though I am most certainly geared up inside one way or the other. Otherwise I couldn’t call myself a performer. And this is true for any venue, whether it be London, Berlin, or a much more obscure place. But when nerves have occurred, they can have a near-devastating effect. Perhaps deep, sustained breathing exercises will help, if one is offstage when the nerves become apparent. But if the nerves start acting up onstage, or if ones hands start shaking for any reason whilst performing (it has happened), one just has to work through it. There is no easy solution.
AMOAFOWAA: How important is the public to you? Do you ever feel that fan-doom undermines a genuine regard for music?
NINO: The collective energy from the public is extremely important for all performers. I wouldn’t believe anyone who told me otherwise!! But why and how this energy is important for me personally has changed somewhat over the years. It will come as a surprise to many who might have heard me when I was younger that I found it almost painful to get up after a performance and take a bow. I would much rather have simply walked offstage unnoticed!! Believe me, it is not false modesty, but quite simply the way I often felt. You know, when one is fully in a piece of music, to suddenly have to relate to the audience at the works conclusion can be very daunting. On the other hand, today I have a very different attitude, if only because I am very aware of my need to interact with the audience’s energy, and the audiences need to show their appreciation for what I’ve been able to give them. If this sounds like pie in the sky, then so be it. We are all sharing our gifts onstage, whatever their merits. If we don’t want to share them, we have no right to be there! With regard to hero-worship, this unfortunately exists in every public profession, and I have had my share of it as well. I don’t like it, but not liking it is not going to change it! Luckily, I believe most of the audience really is responding to the music. When and if it is well played, how can they not!
AMOAFOWAA: How do you respond to aggressive and negative reviews?
NINO: My reactions vary. If the criticism is unduly harsh, I’m often mad, or hurt, or both. With time, either I realize that the critic was an idiot, or that he or she was trying to tell me something that I really needed to learn. There is always a grain of truth in any criticism. By the same token, I think one should take complimentary criticism with a bit of a grain of salt as well. What’s most important is the work that one does before getting up onstage, not what happens once one is there!
AMOAFOWAA: What do you consider the most demanding works you have played and why are they so demanding?
NINO: Well, things such as the Rach 3 have a helluva lot of notes, but I don’t think they are by any stretch of the imagination the most demanding. As I’ve said before, I think Brahms 2 is the most difficult concerto in the repertoire. People know every note of it, and they all have their own conceptions of how they want to hear it. This might be true of other works in the repertoire, but when you put the sheer technical and musical difficulties of the Brahms on top of it all, is makes for an almost impossible task. I remember once one of my teachers, Augustin Lama, telling me that the Hammerklavier wasn’t difficult, it was impossible! Having played it many times, I think I know what he means. Something, albeit perhaps very small, invariably goes wrong, and it’s never when you think it’s going to happen! A work which is terribly rewarding, yet terribly draining, is the Goldberg Variations, which I’ve performed frequently. I’m sure I could find some of the so-called virtuoso warhorses in the repertoire to talk about, many of which I played when I was younger. At the moment my affections are elsewhere, but I cannot rule out doing them in the future in fact, it’s a distinct possibility!
AMOAFOWAA: As a performer, what criteria do you employ in playing any work? How do you strike a balance between realizing the composer’s intentions and self-expression?
NINO: This is a sticky issue. To be honest, the composer is dead on that page of music until we, as performers, bring him or her alive. Any performance of any piece of classical music has got to be transformed through the performer’s personality in order to be heard. To what extent we as performers interject ourselves is the real issue? I see it as a balancing act. One must know and be true to everything which is on the page. Beyond that, one must try and sort out what the composer was really trying to say at that moment. I know all too well, having worked with many contemporary composers in the past thirty-five years, that what they put on the page is more often than not only a blueprint. More than once, if I’ve changed something, the composer will say: Yes, that’s fine, because you’ve approached the argument (or thesis) of the work from a slightly different angle than I conceived at the moment I was writing it. So your conclusion is not only perfectly natural, but also justifiable. On other occasions, the composers have been sticklers for the minutest of printed details. So it can work either way. The problem for us performers is with the so-called dead composers. More often than not, the music simply leaps off the page at me, it speaks openly, strongly, and affirmatively to me. But how many are the times that I wished I could have rung up Beethoven, or Bach, or Mozart, or Schubert, and asked them what they meant by a hair-pin, a Sforza to, a pianissimo that seemed misplaced. Such moments in music are the things that one loses a good night’s sleep over, and I’m not exaggerating! Having lived with a work for a certain period, though, I do feel that an honest and conscientious performer has the right, and maybe even the duty, to change a few things in the score if it allows that score to come alive in a better way.
AMOAFOWAA: What things do you find irritating about other performers’ performances of works that you perform yourself?
NINO: Whether it be in works that I perform myself or not, I find incredibly irritating the affected way of music making that is making the rounds amongst many of today’s younger, and successful, generation. What I mean by irritating is the gross exaggeration of dynamics and tempi, the sheer lack of regard towards simplicity of movement, thought and feeling that is part and parcel of any truly great work. Luckily for all of these great works in the piano literature, there are still older, more established and more seasoned artists to lead the way. But it seems that this is what the promoters and the managers think the audiences really want to see and hear. I’m not so sure
AMOAFOWAA: You seem to have no regret of having chosen that way.
NINO: No, I don’t. My life had been good, and since choosing this way, my life has been even more fulfilled. There are so many wonderful young musicians in today’s music world. Their enthusiasm and passion bring a tremendous amount of energy to our field, and their passion will support and sustain it in the future. Communicating with those young people motivates and encourages me. As one of the older generation, I can communicate my experience as a teacher and a performer to those young people.
AMOFOWAA: Any words of wisdom for those who have won distinction in piano competitions?
NINO: Try not to allow feelings of a momentary accomplishment to obscure the need to develop and grow.
AMOAFOWAA: What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current projects.
NINO: Every single concert is different. Each one has a unique experience with the audience and in my career I have never experienced any two concerts that were the same. This coming year (2015) we will be touring in over 20 countries and we get a renewed enthusiasm from each new audience, ground breaking, international concert venues at the Acropolis in Greece, Forbidden City in China, Taj Mahal in India, The Kremlin in Russia, and other significant international concert venues
That is the magic of live performances, they are live and never the same. I still get “butterflies” or anxious before every single show. When we perform for an audience, we get so much love from the audience that makes all of us on the stage feel so motivated and rewarded for our effort and this love and relationship with the audience is what keeps us going with such enthusiasm.
I will keep enjoying my collaboration as soloist, Composer recording for the music publication ‘Pianist Millennium Production’; a tour in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York for Christmas Melody, Texas, at the end of the year with other concert activities as usual; and learn more Rachmaninov pieces!
AMOAFOWAA: Any awards so far?
GOLD MEDALIST in FOUR INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITIONS
New Orleans IPC, Alfredo Barilli IPC, Washington IPC, Missouri Southern IPC, Laureate of Seiler IPC, Special Prizes (including Best Performances of 20th-Century and Commissioned Works)
WINNER for “Album of the Year” in the 2013 Whisperings Solo Piano Radio awards.
“Spiritual Awakening” nominated for Best New Age Song in the 2013 Independent Music Awards.
Nominated for Best Solo Piano Album on One World Music.
“Radiance” nominated for Best Instrumental Song in the 2013 Boston Music in Media (HMMA’s) Awards.
NINO: For any young artist, I would advise to keep an open and inquisitive mind, read omnivorously from many different sources, go to a lot of concerts of fellow artists, and of course, practice and learn new music continually. And be unflinchingly honest to your deeper self, whatever it is. This is the hardest of all to accomplish.
AMOAFOWAA: Thank you very much for your time:
Thank you too.
HIS INSPIRATION CAME IN THIS FORM
Pana nanana, panananana
When skilled fingers play
There is an array of light in emotions
Mihran ranks high
Playing and playing till sorrowful thoughts melt
Perhaps, he is the belt that we all need
In times when we are stuck and harmed
Play your play
As we see them served on goodness tray
Nino is the piano master
Play until play suspends time
Forcing the piano to play even after your heavenly call
Today being Valentine’s Day, please think not only of your lover, there are children on the street needing a little smile here and there, try your hardest to help one smile today. Blessings Irene, for this post.
Today’s prompt is not easy to start for me. What is emotions and the opposites in these? A lot of things happening in our world can turn my temper up in red, even I use to be a calm soul, when I tell it myself…..
I think back at this weeks post at WordPress and think at Cecilias poem about Abused Orphanes did make me so very sad. When kids live away from their home, if the parents are alive at all, at least we need to secure that they get the needed love and care, when they don’t have family to give them this. After being sad I thought about what we can do to change this behavior from adults, who really should show empathy and love to those kids and not abuse them.